Dispatch from death row
- It is a moral imperative for govt to appeal for the repatriation of Nepalis on death row
Jan 26, 2015-
Indonesia, a country of 250 million, is notorious for its severe drug policy. Most often drug traffickers are executed or imprisoned for life. On January 18, Indonesia executed five people convicted on drug trafficking charges; four of them were foreign nationals from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. More than 138 people await execution on death row, a third of them foreigners, reports The Guardian newspaper. Among them is a Nepali man, Indra Bahadur Tamang, arrested in 2001 with 900 grams of heroin. Nearly 14 years later, it is still uncertain when Indra Bahadur will face execution.
Nepal’s protracted transition has no doubt taken a toll on all facets of governance. And this cost has been especially telling in Nepal’s diplomacy. So it comes as no surprise that the government remains unaware of Indra Bahadur’s fate in Indonesia or of Nepalis jailed in other countries. It is estimated that more than a dozen Nepalis await execution in the Middle East and Malaysia. Last August, in one telling incident, Shova Pariyar, a single mother from Tanahun, was beheaded by Saudi Arabia on murder charges. The Nepal government did not make any attempts to appeal for clemency.
Despite the contributions that remittances from migrant workers make to the Nepali economy, there is little effort from the government to safeguard their rights. Most migrants leave with little to no knowledge of the language and culture of their countries of destination and hence, become easy prey for unscrupulous employers. Most countries in the Middle East and East Asia, the primary destinations for Nepali migrants, have opaque legal proceedings and stringent punishments when found guilty. Many international rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have raised legitimate concerns over such legal processes and capital punishment provisions.
Nepal, to its credit, has refused to enshrine capital punishment for any crime. On this moral ground alone, it is the responsibility of the Nepal government to press for the repatriation of its citizens on death row or at least appeal for clemency. Indonesia itself made a strong appeal against the execution of one of its citizens in Saudi Arabia. Brazil and the Netherlands made similar overtures to Indonesia on behalf of their citizens. The Nepal government’s efforts in this regard have been sorely lacking. Lacking government initiatives, civil society and Non-Resident Nepali organisations have stepped in to raise ‘blood money’, a debt that can be paid to aggrieved parties in the Middle East to appeal for amnesty. But unless high-level initiatives are forthcoming, Nepalis will continue to meet their doom. The government, therefore, must immediately initiate efforts to appeal to the governments of host countries to repatriate its citizens on death row. Failing this, it can still appeal for a reduction in sentencing to life imprisonment. As international human rights law restricts the use of the death penalty to “the most serious crimes,” there is a strong moral case to be made in favour of such Nepalis.
Published: 27-01-2015 08:59